Meant to Be ========= DISCLAIMER: OK, Paramount owns 'em, I just like to write about 'em(

=========

Kathryn Janeway sat on a beach near San Francisco, alone. It was an overcast day, but still beautiful. And quiet. And she really needed some time by herself right now. It had been nearly a year since Voyager had come home. Their homecoming had been all she had expected, full of celebrations, speeches, dinners. Then came the briefing, the de-briefings, and endless questions until Kathryn felt like she would scream. But now that was over and she had time to think and feel again. Right now she was feeling very lonely. Her Voyager 'family' had all gone their own ways. She hadn't talked to many of them in months. She's had one conversation with Mark, but it had been stiff and uncomfortable for them both, and something neither of them was in a hurry to repeat. If she had wanted she could have gone back to Indiana and stayed with her mother and sister, but she really didn't feel like she fit there either anymore. Kathryn sighed and rested her head on her knees, watching the surf.

Gradually she became aware of someone standing near her. She looked over to see who it was and gave a startled gasp. The gasp caught the person's attention. He looked around and when he saw it was Kathryn his expression matched hers.

"Kathryn! What are you doing here?"

"Chakotay, I was going to ask you the same thing!"

Chakotay smiled. "Just taking some time off."

Kathryn stood up, brushing the sand off her pants. "Me too. Want to take a walk?"

"Sure." Chakotay answered.

As they walked Kathryn gave him a sideways glance. He looked so different out of uniform, so relaxed, so handsome. She felt her heart quicken, but tried to ignore it. She didn't know he was watching her as well, thinking the same things.

Kathryn started to tell him about all the work Starfleet still had her doing.

"What about you?" She asked him. "Now that the Maquis have been pardoned, did you decide to join Starfleet officially?"

Chakotay shook his head. "I thought about it, but I didn't really like the idea. I went back to what I wanted to do all along, archaeology. I just got back from a site off planet and decided to take some time off. I never thought I would run into you here."

Kathryn cocked her head to one side and looked at him. "Are you sorry you did?"

Chakotay returned her look with a long one of his own. "No, I'm not. It's good to see you again."

They walked on in silence for several minutes, both wanting to tell the other how they felt, both unsure how to say it. Finally Chakotay broke the silence.

"Kathryn, would you like to have dinner with me tonight? For old time's sake?"

She really wanted to, but didn't want to admit it. He was taken after all.

"I don't know. I have a lot of work to catch up on. Besides I am sure that Seven wants to spent time with you."

There. She had said it. Now she would find out just how close they were, whether she wanted to or not. The words her older self had said kept ringing in her head. '...her husband, Chakotay...'

Chakotay shifted a little, then turned so he could look right into her eyes.

"There is no Seven, at least not for me. After we got back to Earth she...decided to alter the parameters of our relationship. Basically she just wanted to be 'friends'."

"Oh, I am sorry." Kathryn said, sounding a little absent, not quite believing what she had just heard.

"You are?" Chakotay asked.

"Well, you were in love with her weren't you?" Kathryn retorted.

"I thought I was in love with her. I really did. But when all this happened, I found I couldn't stop thinking about you."

There was a long pause.

"I love you Kathryn." Chakotay said quietly.

Kathryn looked up at him, surprised. "You...love me?"

"I have for years, almost from the very beginning." Chakotay answered.

Kathryn looked at him. This was her best friend, her trusted advisor, the only one who could question her, tell her what to do, the only one who really understood her. They had been through so much together. She realized that she loved him too. That she had for years. But she had ran from it, been afraid of his love, and her own feelings. She had been afraid of what the crew would think, that she would be violating some unwritten protocol. But mostly afraid that if she admitted how she felt that she would lose him.

On Voyager there had been so many things to keep them apart. But this wasn't Voyager. She didn't have to worry about what anyone would think. They were no longer Captain and First Officer, but just two people, two friends, finally free to be more.

Kathryn smiled just a little. "Do you really love me?"

Chakotay smiled back. "I have never been so sure of anything in my life." He said simply.

Kathryn took a step closer to him, not taking her eyes off his. "Oh Chakotay, I love you too..."

Slowly their lips met, and as they did the fog began to roll in, wrapping around them, closing them in a world meant just for them, the way they were meant to be.